Winter has arrived as well as the desire to try out winter hiking in the mountains in close contact with nature. The passion for hiking has evolved over the last few years and is now not only reserved for high altitude enthusiasts, but also for those – like, tourists, hikers, families with children, boys and girls on a trip – who want to immerse themselves in an alpine landscape for a few hours, without rigorous training or weeks of fitness preparation or wearing snowshoes. Due to the touristic success of the little villages in our mountains there has been an increased number in hiking trails and well trodden trails fit for hiking boots, even if you are in the company of younger children. This trend is continuously increasing, thanks to the beauty of the valleys and the surrounding landscapes, not to mention the quality of the air and food when you stop for a break in a cozy mountain cabin to refresh. In short, this is a panacea for everyone, from young to old people, with a variety of activities for those who want to send their time outdoors. So, in this article you will find 6 of the most beautiful winter walks you can do in the Eastern Alps and in particular in the territory of Monte Rosa.
1) ANCIENT HAMLETS: WHERE TIME IS CRYSTALLIZED
The first winter hike we would like to offer our readers is to the so-called ancient villages which are the villages built by the Walser people near the town Alagna in Valsesia. It is a group of small villages with a few dozen houses built in the typical and unmistakable Walser architectural style. Among the highlights of this walk is the oven of the little hamlet, Ponte and is the only survivor of the terrible fire of 1819.
Not too far away is the Walser museum in the hamlet Pedemonte, the seventeenth-century oratory of San Nicolao, and further on still, in the hamlet of Ronco Superiore, you will see a rare example of a Stodal-bai, a rural building built on two floors with an interposed interspace. Finally, in the villages of San Nicolao and Uterio, there are two other important stops on the ecomuseum walk: the hamlet oven and the mills, dated between 1552 and 1694. The last stops are the hamlets of Merletti Inferiore Merletti Superiore, both with buildings of important historical interest. This is an easy two hour hiking tour, suitable for children, through an area where it seems as if time has stood still.
2) HIGH SITUATED HAMLETS: CHARACTERISTIC MOUNTAIN VILLAGE
Here is another winter hike of about two hours and is suitable for everyone, families with children included, and it leads from the center of Alagna to the village that overlooks the town, and composed of a group of houses known as upper hamlets. Light years from the stereotypical tourist village where only folklore survives, this agglomeration is still alive and populated by people, offering visitors a glimpse of the customs and habits of the residents. The hike passes through many fractions like: Montella, Goreto, Rusa (with houses that date back to 1400) and Piane, Dosso, Ecco and Bonda. A must stop is at the picturesque Trattoria Fum Diss, a restaurant bar, open all year round which offers a rich menu of seasonal, zero kilometre dishes such as polenta concia, “tapulone” (stewed donkey meat), miacci (a type of wrap), homemade desserts and delicious mountain liqueurs. This hike offers a great opportunity to taste the authentic cuisine of the Alps and recharge your batteries before continuing your walk.
3) ALPE PILE AND THE MOUNTAIN REFUGE, PASTOR: IDEAL FOR FAMILIES
If you are looking for the best walk for families, we suggest you to visit Alpe Pile and Refuge Pastore following trail n ° 206 (ex 6). The starting point is the Chapel of St. Antonio, about 4 km from Alagna: from here there is a mule track that, starts out flat, then it becomes a stairway of about 350 steps, reaching the spectacular meadows of the Alpe Pile at a height of 1575 meters above sea level. It is not just any place, but it is perhaps the most beautiful viewpoint on noble Monte Rosa. On short winter days, once you have reached your destination, you will have the opportunity to admire the snowy peaks of this great massif and, with the binoculars or telescope available on site, you can view the famous Refuge Regina Margherita, perched at 4,554 meters above sea level on the bare rock walls of Punta Gnifetti. A record in all respects, considering that this shelter proudly holds the title of the “highest refuge in Europe” (and yes, you can also visit it in winter thanks to special guided tours!). Returning with your feet on the ground, at Alpe Pile you will also find Refuge Pastore, a great place for a lunch, a snack or a hot tea.
4) THE OTRO VALLEY: A STEP BACK IN TIME
The fourth winter walk will take you back to a time when mountain life was all about hunting, sheep farming and natural agriculture. Six small villages along trail 2013 (ex 3) in Val D’Otro: Follu, Scarpia, Ciucche, Weng, Felljerc and Dorf. These ancient village names remained the same despite the passing of the centuries. The overall difference in altitude of this trek is about 580 meters, with a total of 2 hours of easy walking even for those who are not trained. Many Walser houses can be photographed along the way until you reach Refuge Zar Senni. This building, which is open during the Christmas period from December 28th to January 6th, is a perfect base for excursions and walks in the surrounding area. You will have a comfortable and cosy stay because there are only two rooms and six beds available. This stay is to be booked well in advance for those who want to experience a quiet holiday in the picturesque setting of a postcard landscape that includes the Corno Bianco (3320 m) and the two small glaciers, the Puio snowfield and the glacier d ‘Otro.
5) THE VOGNA VALLEY: AN EASY AND WELL EQUIPPED TRAIL
This is another easy and well marked path for an undemanding winter hike, with the starting point at Ca di Janzo at 1354 meters above sea level. The trail number is 10 (ex 1), and it can be done either on foot or by bicycle. This is a territory that has been populated since the fourteenth century and it is precisely here in Val Vogna where the first people, who arrived from France via the ancient road that connects Riva Valdobbia with Gressoney, settled. Today the splendid Walser villages can be seen all over the valley and testify to the presence of man and his incessant work. Worthy of mention is the Ospizio Sottile, located at a height of 2,480 meters above sea level, and is a historic building requested by canon Sottile to guarantee asylum to the emigrants who crossed that hill in all seasons… winter included! The modern equipment especially designed for hiking made us forget what it meant to walk with skins and boots in temperatures well below zero, so we can only imagine the terrible suffering faced by the brave settlers over 600 years ago. The walk today, however is relaxing (about an hour and a half), considered easy and therefore also suitable for children.
6) D’IN D’SHENINE TRAIL: A CLASSIC HIKE
How do you imagine the classic winter hike in the mountains? A scenic trail, surrounded by imposing mountains, perhaps with a partly frozen stream that forms strange geometries? Well, if your idea looks like this, get ready, because the short D’In D’Shenine trail (meaning “to the beautiful places” in the Walser language) will not fail to meet your expectations. Even if this path is crossed by the cross-country ski piste of the Monte Rosa ski resort in the middle of winter, nothing prevents you from strolling and relaxing in the open air up to the arrival point, Sesietta di Riva Valdobbia (a walk of about 3 km’s). Along the way you will find the hamlet of Balma and beyond that, the sunny hamlets of Piana Fuseria and Gabbio, surrounded by fields and orchards. Along the bank of the river Sesia, there is a fitness trail that has been created within the ancient forest of Gabbio.
The D’In D’Shenine Trail is the welcome winter walk that we recommend to newcomers: a way to stretch your legs and get to know the territory of Alagna at a slow pace, forgetting about noise, confusion and stress from citylife.